You’ve seen the bell curve representing change:
But, have you noticed the gap between innovators/early adopters and The early majority?
It is in this space where leaders encounter opposition and polarization. So let’s look at seven steps we can take to escape polarization in this stumbling zone.
1 Map Potential Responses Prior To Finalizing Your Vision
Assuming you’ve laid a foundation through Bible teaching and team building, this is the first step toward escaping the gap where so much can go wrong.
You anticipate and organize expected responses from potentially harmful influencers.
Prepare an answer to whatever issues you expect.
Also, identify the strongest supporters of the change your negotiating and list how these people might help in any anticipated debate over the vision and goals.
2 Unmask Your Commitment with A Metaphor
If they’re going to shoot, let them try to kill a metaphor rather than you or the changes on the table.
The metaphor depersonalizes a debate. It prevents opponents from becoming enemies.
It also insulates the proposed change from some of the negativity which may arise.
However, when you unmask something, truly unmask it. After laying groundwork, announce the change with firmness mixed with flexibility. This goes something like, “Here’s where we’re going. It’s much like (supply your metaphor). We know we will do it, but together we can iron out the details.
3 Provide A Projected Timeline for Change—Make Haste Slowly
A projected timeline gives slower people time to reflect and respond.
Don’t rush your team.
Innovators and early adopters will jump on a new idea. Others won’t!
Give your folks lots of lead time before any projected change occurs—another form of insulation against attack. Then, keep your dates as soft as is practical. Allow for modification along the way.
Make haste slowly—they’re called late majority, etc., for a reason.
No leader can wait for every person to come onboard a new situation, but you can allow them to adopt change at their comfort speed. This builds trust with slower members
4 Understand the “How Will This Affect Me?” Concerns
Everyone is a stakeholder.
Each one stands to lose something whenever a change occurs. They usually stand to gain, too. But many people can’t perceive anything but a threat in times of change.
They’re thinking about positions, influence or even power.
You need to address these issues or at least understand that they are at work. Some of this takes you back to the first point—anticipate and map, or list, possible objections along with the subsurface issues leading to the complaints.
Many of these can be resolved in a meeting, but some will require one-on-one attention, which brings me to the next point.
5 Address Opponents Concerns Privately
They are your opponents in the gap—not your enemies.
Personal time spent with those who oppose your ideas allows for mutual understanding. It also helps prevent anger and “emnification” of one another.
Hang on to any positive thing!
Most people will toss a bone to an opponent in a debate. Grab onto any positive thing a person might say. I’ve learned to meet opposing forces one at a time, glean and share their positive statements with each one in a round-robin fashion. I’ll go around a small circle of people three or four times, if necessary, informing each person of the positive statements made by the others.
6 Gather and Spread Any Support You Glean From Opponents
This is not unlike point 5. It just involves a broader audience.
I’ll publicly share whatever good things I’ve heard from those who have expressed opposition. Sometimes I’ll ask the person to expand on what they said while respecting their larger struggle with the idea or goal under discussion. This is not a tool to embarrass or isolate. It simply adds a positive side to the debate. It also helps nudge others toward the new direction.
7 Marginalize Underminers and Those Totally Unwilling To Move
Some people make it their business to undermine leadership.
Others are set in their ways and regard any change with an overlay of hostility.
You can marginalize or even isolate these people in positive ways, along with some that may seem more combative.
Say a person has led a Bible study for years, but now you want to move to a microchurch model working with the previous weekend’s teaching. If they are intransient, let them keep doing whatever it is. I’d create a separate category for this as in Microchurches and Bible Studies. Let them operate side by side but focus the congregation on the microchurches.
Got underminers? Isolate them.
You can do this by quoting their statements in an offhand manner, then saying why everyone is moving in a different direction. Don’t name or shame people. Do poke holes in their undermining arguments.
Suppose you find people spreading untruths or even attempting to divide the church. Confront them. Take two or three for the second round. Inform them that round three means taking the problem to the entire church. You probably won’t need to go past the second round of confrontation. Jesus gave us sage advice on this one.
So, what have you learned that I’ve missed. Or, what did I write that gets your hackles up? The comments box is there for you. Please use it. It’s your tool for helping steer me as I perpetuate this blog. As always, you’ll see a short, live teaching on YouTube at https://youtu.be/mFjsMU4QR-A